A little while ago, I talked with Juxtapoz Magazine about the importance of social media and how it relates to my studio practice.
I get asked about this topic a lot. I get a ton of emails asking if I have a social media manager.
I take pride in the fact that my social media accounts represent my voice authentically. There are no gimmicks or secrets to my growing following other than hard work and persistence. The reality is, it’s just me and it always has been.
In the Juxtapoz interview, I talked about how tools like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter can enable diverse communities to interact with each other — from galleries, to artists, to collectors outside my personal network.
Using these platforms in the right way enables me to give outsiders an intimate look into my artistic process while sharing my work with people all around the world.
Interview with Gabriel Shaffer for Juxtapoz Magazine (October 22, 2018):
The Digital Wheel: Heather Day on Keeping Art First
In part 3 of The Digital Wheel, Mab Graves gave valuable insight on how she utilizes social networking as a tool for marketing her work and connecting with an audience. For part 4, I interviewed San Francisco based artist, Heather Day. Anyone who has been paying attention to contemporary abstract painting should be aware of Heather's work. Her solid studio work ethic and well-curated approach to social media provide valuable glimpses into her process, communicating directly with her followers and supporting her galleries. Everything clicks.
I first saw her paintings in person at the 2017 Juxtapoz Clubhouse in Miami and was struck. It's too crude to say Heather's work is aesthetically beautiful. Her paintings capture a graceful contemplative moment. A harmonious movement between organic shapes, saturated textures, material improvisation, and serene color pallets. As I viewed the pieces, I felt similar sensations I had wandering through the woods in West Virginia, as a kid. Breathing in the cool fresh air, collecting fallen leaves, while surrounded by trees. Observing the tracks of animals and listening to the sound of a distant stream. Somehow, Heather Day provides a bridge to this vulnerable place, through the virtual experience.––Gabriel Shaffer
Gabriel Shaffer: When did you start using social networking platforms to promote your art and what format did you begin with?
Heather Day: It started back in 2012 when I was in college at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Then, I was pretty much shooting in the dark. I remember clicking a lot of random buttons on Tumblr, not realizing I was resharing something. It wasn’t intuitive but I thought “This seems significant and I have nothing to lose.”
I began with Pinterest but was active on Blogspot, and Tumblr. I’m pretty sure I had a private Instagram account, too.
I was less concerned with building a following and more focused on building a larger, more representative community of artists. These were people of all ages, races, and styles who could provide me with critical feedback on my work.
At the time, Blogspot felt like the most authentic and critical community of artists outside of my college network in Baltimore. I took my Blogspot down, but I’m still connected with some of those artists on Facebook.
What platforms are you currently active with and why?
I view my activity on social media as a tool to share my work, build connections, and discover new communities. My level of activity from Pinterest to Facebook to Instagram differs, but the drive is the same.
On Pinterest, my work organically gets pinned thousands of times a day without me jumping in. I suppose it’s up to me to keep my website up to date so that continues to happen. But work I was making back in 2012 is still being shared there.
When it comes to Facebook and Instagram, I have to keep feeding the fire more regularly. Those platforms also maintain the largest communities. Instagram in particular has grown and afforded me new, interesting opportunities.
My newsletter and blog are also crucial aspects to my studio practice. Those outlets provide an intimate experience with the community and offer readers a more intimate relationship with my work, digitally.
Was it easy for you to figure out how to interact with at first? If not, how did you improve?
I’m not sure that any of these platforms were easy at first. The product itself is easy. You upload a post or caption and bam! you have something out in the world. But, the difference is knowing how to make a productive post — one your community and people outside your network actually see.
The platform that I’m currently using the most is Instagram. It might seem easier because it feels less restrictive. Instagram has continued to provide me with more tools like adding links to Instagram stories to engage with my followers in a thoughtful way and generate a serious collector base.
Was there a moment where you noticed a tipping point with how many followers you had or was it a gradual build?
There were small moments where I thought I’m on the right track. But, there were also a lot of frustrating periods where I thought, “this is taking away from my time for painting.”
It’s important for artists to continuously put themselves out there through artist residencies, magazines, and blogs. Those platforms have followings that can be crucial to an artist's career. That was something I recognized early. I was submitting my work to blogs and Instagram followings ranging from design to art. For every 30 I reached out to, I probably got one response. As my following grew and work evolved, that ratio shifted in my favor.
Do you think social networking is important for emerging and mid-career artists and why?
Absolutely it’s important. The goal is to figure out how to use social media as a tool - not something that consumes your life. The primary goal is to create the art, right? The secondary goal is to get it in front of people who care, that want to interact with it, and participate in the story by collecting the work.
Has social media affected your process or studio life? If so, how?
My immediate response is no, it hasn’t affected my process. But, the reality is that in the beginning, I worked hard to strike a balance. It’s always been about the work for me. But, for a long time, I was trying to make ends meet. That meant pushing social media more. Now, it’s become a tool. It’s a means of getting my work out of the studio and into the eyes of everyone anywhere in the world. That’s an incredible opportunity.
Do you sell your art directly to collectors you connect with on social media?
In some rare cases, like high-profile commissions, yes. But, I primarily sell my work through established galleries and art consultants. If I get inquiries about my work through social media, I forward those to my gallery team.
What are some positive effects social media has had on your career?
Social media has provided me a platform to share my work and engage with collectors in a different format. On the flipside, it’s allowed me the capacity to reach out and connect with artists outside my own city.
What are some of the negatives? Are there any horror stories?
It’s a distraction. It’s good to get on and post what I need, and then get off! There is a little discomfort with sharing parts of your personal life so publicly. Surprisingly, privacy is an important part of my life. Boundaries tend to get crossed on social media, but I’ve found if I’m selective about what I share, my audience understands.
Has your success on social media had an effect on your relationships with the gallery system?
At first, I was worried about that. I think there is the perception that social media is surface-level and doesn't equate to real-world success. In my case, it has helped garner me a serious collector-base that is drawn in by the process of my work. My last solo show at a gallery included 50 new paintings, and all of them were spoken for before the doors opened, partly because of social media awareness. I think we're in the midst of a shift where we see a lot of top-level galleries starting to participate in social media. It's a matter of how you choose to use the platform, and what story you decide to tell.
Do you think galleries are still relevant if social media and the internet exists?
Absolutely! Galleries are vital to my practice. Seeing artwork in-person, in a considered space is central to the process. Looking at images on a screen will never replace the experience of seeing an artwork in real life. I encourage everyone to seek out galleries, museums, and public art spaces to experience art for yourself. Galleries help me engage with new communities and collectors, and they will be around for a long time to come.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists just starting to promote their work on social media?
Use social media as a tool. Make sure you find your own voice instead of copying what's already out there — even if that's where you start from. Find artists you look up to and share them with your friends, family, and audience. Social media is a great way to encourage community, but it isn't a replacement for the real thing. Go look at art in real life! It's good for you.
Thank you Juxtapoz Magazine and Gabriel Schaffer. Read the full interview here.